Swiss Voters Reject 'Fat Cat' Pay Deals
Swiss employment groups have reacted bitterly to a referendum that could force firms in the country to rein in executive pay.
Final results showed that 67.9% of those who voted came out in favour of the proposals, which only cover Swiss firms listed on Swiss or foreign stock exchanges.
The draft law, known as the Minder Initiative, was compiled by businessman and senator Thomas Minder who spoke of his delight that it had passed.
"The people have decided to send a strong signal to boards, the Federal Council (Swiss government) and the parliament," he told public broadcaster RTS.
The result was seen as a rejection of a growing wage gulf in the country.
The initiative will limit the mandate of board members to one year and ban certain kinds of compensation, including so-called golden handshakes or golden parachutes given to executives when they leave a company.
In addition, it will ban the bonuses received for takeovers or when a company sells off part of its business.
According to the text, anyone who does not follow the rules could face up to three years behind bars and fines amounting to up to six years of their salary.
Switzerland's main employer's association, Economiesuisse, which had fought against the draft lamented its passage, insisting an "emotional debate" had blocked "a facts-based discussion about the content of the initiative".
Outrage had mounted last month when information leaked out about a planned golden parachute for Daniel Vasella, former head of pharmaceuticals giant Novartis.
Vasella, who made 15 million Swiss francs (£10.3m) in 2011, was to be paid 72 million Swiss francs (£51m) extra over six years, provided he did not go to work for the competition, after stepping down this February.
The deal sparked uproar despite Novartis' subsequent announcement that Vasella would forgo the sum.
The Swiss government and the upper house of parliament had come out against the initiative, cautioning that some large companies might decide to move their headquarters out of the country.
Minder argued that rather than chasing firms away, investors would now be more likely to set up companies in Switzerland.
It is expected that the proposals will be voted on in Parliament in a year's time.